“I Am Dolittle” *finger snap, movie disintegrates* well only one could have wished…But where is Thanos and his gauntlet when you need him the most? Because “Dolittle” could really use a gauntlet snap right about now. I vote that Universal Pictures is no longer allowed to make anymore films with animals. Universal brings us charismatic star Robert Downey Jr’s “Dolittle” to join the ranks of last months “Cats”, in becoming a heaping pile of cinematic animal dung. Downey creates one of the biggest cinematic crimes, by giving up the role of a lifetime as Iron Man to play the whispering and mumbling Dolittle. The year only started and here we already have one of the worst films of the year.
It’s been a long time since Ribert Downey Jr has acted in a non-Marvel movie. In his new astoundingly bad, heaping pile of animal dung of a family film “Dolittle”, marks the actor’s first movie outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe in six years. Not since 2014, when he starred opposite Robert Duvall in the outstanding courtroom drama “The Judge” was he starring in something other than a marvel movie. After seeing “Dolittle” you only wish he never made the decision to give up the role of a lifetime as Iron Man.
Based on the beloved books by Hugh Lofting, Doctor Dolittle has been adapted famously before in 1967’s “Doctor Dolittle” starring Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy’s “Doctor Dolittle 1 & 2” in 1998 and 2001. Now comes the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. taking on the role of the doctor in the simply titled “Dolittle”. When I first heard that Robert Downey Jr was going to do a new “Doctor Dolittle”, I’ll admit I was excited knowing their was going to be a new direction and take on the character. But it was questionable that this would be the first film he wanted to do in the wake of his triumphant 11 year run as Iron Man.
I say no one is allowed to give Eddie Murphy anymore crap about his version as Robert Downey’s, just might be the worst of all of the adaptations. It’s certainly the most disappointing…”Dolittle” was doomed from the beginning plagued by script rewrites, adding animal characters at the last minute and having director Jonathan Liebesman (Megan Fox “Ninja Turtles”) come on to help oversee filming, with writer and director Chris McKay (“Lego Batman”) helping to punch up the scripts comedy elements. This all led to a delayed release of the very costly (reported $175 million) family film.
Things were so bad, it caused distributor Universal Pictures to release “Dolittle” in January (known as the dumping ground for bad and unsuccessful films). Let’s just say it hasn’t been a good two months for Universal as Robert Downey Jr’s “Dolittle” joins the ranks of Universal Pictures Christmas release of “Cats”.
Co-writer and director of “Dolittle” is Stephen Gaghan, who has some credibility to his name. He has won the Academy Award for best screenplay for the Michael Douglas drug trafficking thriller “Traffic” and is the writer-director of “Syriana”, which won George Clooney a best actor Oscar. So here you have the brilliant Stephen Gaghan writing and directing a film starring the genius that is Robert Downey Jr and what we get is a Doctor Dolittle movie?! Not even a good one at that.
Gaghan was not cut out for a movie this big budgeted. He has no sense of visual imagination, with what is supposed to be some of the movie’s most adventurous moments, just end up lacking any splendor or majesty.
Not only is the movie a downer so is it’s star Robert Downey Jr. Watching his appalling performance is a sin to the impressive career he has built for himself, especially coming from a talent like Downey. I have absolutely no idea what he was doing with this performance but it’s his worst yet. Downey does what seems to be a cross between his iteration of Sherlock Holmes and Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow with what is supposed to be a Welsh accent performed with a low whisper and grizzle. He’s so busy being campy and strange he never gets a chance to let his warmth or his charisma shine. Those are two things which the project sorely needed.
Joining Downey is an impressive A-List cast providing voice work for the animals. Including: Downey’s MCU protege Tom Holland (“Spider-Man”) voicing Dolittle’s loyal pup and bestie Jip. Polynesia (Emma Thompson “Love Actually”), a motherly macaw who looks after Dolittle. Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer “The Help”), an apparently addled duck who waddles about madly like an ancestor of that Aflac mascot. Yoshi (John Cena “Bumblebee”), a polar bear who’s always cold, ha ha. Finally there is Chee-Chee (Rami Malek “Bohemian Rhapsody”), a ferocious-looking gorilla who is actually super-timid and afraid to face all his fears.
Also hoping as voice cast is Marion Cotillard, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez. The script by Gaghan injects the doctor’s chatty animals to speak exclusively in a 21st century sass. Ok, I see how it was an attempt at bringing present day dialogue into a Victorian period setting but it just doesn’t work at all. Heath Ledger’s “A Knights Tale” is a prime example of 21st century dialogue in a period setting done right.
On the live action side of the actors Michael Sheen chews the scenery as the films villain, while a pirate kingdom is ruled by the cutthroat Rassouli played by Antonio Banderas. The Oscar nominee was the highlight of the entire film but needed more screen time.
All wonderful actors but they all deserve better than this, as the script clearly aims for the kids in the audience as they try to wring some laughs out of the cheesy, corny and kid friendly flat dialogue. I see where they were going, trying to upgrade an old age story for a new generation with more action and adventure. “Dolittle” could have been a great epically scaled re-invention in the way Guy Ritchie’s “The Legend Of King Arthur” or David Yates “The Legend Of Tarzan” was. Having the setting in the Victorian era was a good start and exciting way to take things but it all never works.
It’s hard to comprehend what about the movie had warranted such a costly budget? Maybe it was to ensure some believability that a CGI gorilla could kick a CGI tiger in the testicles? Or maybe it was to create one of the most memorable scenes in movie history? As Downey sticks a leek up and removes debris from a dragon’s rectum, as one big blow of flatulence ensues. Hey but it’s all in the name of good wholesome family entertainment that Downey should be ashamed to be a part of. Where is Thanos and his gauntlet when you need him the most? Because “Dolittle” could really use a gauntlet snap right about now.
GRADE: ★☆☆☆☆ (1 out of 5)